Melanne Verveer
Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues
Washington, DC
May 30, 2012

On May 3, the UN commemorated World Press Freedom day with the theme, “media freedom to help transform societies.” This year, once again, we are presented with the opportunity to underscore the fundamental principles of press freedom and to uphold the crucial role journalists play in their societies. It is also an opportunity to pay tribute to journalists who courageously go about their job, often at great risk – losing their lives or suffering physical attacks.

Despite our diverse and complex world, we can all rally behind key principles: women should be respected and have their rights protected. They should be able to fulfill their God-given potential. We all have a responsibility to ensure that women who are victims of gender-based violence receive the care and treatment they need. And we all have an obligation to speak up against injustice --- wherever it manifests itself.

Each year, the United States honors a group of dedicated women leaders from around the globe with the International Woman of Courage Award, presented by the Secretary of State. One of the 2012 winners who received her award from Secretary Hillary Clinton was Jineth Bedoya, a very courageous investigative journalist from Colombia. In 2000, while working on an article about paramilitary activity in Colombia, Jineth arrived at a prison for an interview with a key paramilitary member. Instead, she was kidnapped, driven several hours away and gang raped. During her horrifying experience she was told, “Pay attention. We are sending a message to the press in Colombia.” She was left for dead in a dumpster and miraculously survived.

Since then, Jineth has continued her work as an investigative journalist. At the same time, she has pushed for justice in her own case and other unsolved cases of gender-based violence. She knows that this violence is a terrible scourge that must be addressed and that its perpetrators must be brought to justice.

Jineth is an inspiration not only to female journalists but to all women who are seeking justice.

It is the women – and the good men - like Jineth who stand firmly on the right side of history. Progress and justice sometime only come after a struggle. We are all called to stand up for what is right and just.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that our ultimate test is not where we stand in moments of comfort and moments of convenience, but where we stand in moments of challenge and moments of controversy.

For all of the brave journalists who have chosen to do their jobs, even at great risk to themselves, who have done so despite criticism, harassment and threats, we all offer our deepest gratitude. After all, media freedom truly does help to transform societies.

[This is a mobile copy of World Press Freedom]

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